2019 was the first of three consecutive years that Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM) gathering – a meeting of Quakers from across Canada – will be in Winnipeg. CYM in Session offers a rich opportunity to connect with Friends, to do the business of the national body of Friends in Canada, and to learn about the state of Quaker Meetings. Those present build community, hear reports back from many external bodies, and find out about the peace and social concerns that Friends are involved with. They peruse the information tables and handmade crafts for sale, attend workshops on all sorts of topics, and engage in countless great conversations. There are sing-alongs, chants, and silent worship.
This year’s gathering took place at Canadian Mennonite University between August 1 and 10, and Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) was well represented. The CFSC members present were Carol Dixon, Joy Morris, Bertha Small, and Linda Taffs. The staff were Jenn Preston, Tasmin Rajotte, and Matt Legge. CFSC offered three workshops:
- On our new book Are We Done Fighting? Building Understanding in a World of Hate and Division – This session featured a brief presentation by Matt about several of the factors that are driving people apart right now, and practical ways to engage in difficult conversations. A powerful discussion between workshop participants followed, touching on a wide range of current issues.
- On discernment of peace and social actions – In this session Tasmin and Matt presented a draft resource and those present discussed how Friends can use Quaker decision-making processes to know what peace and social justice work to take on and how to set priorities and plan. (We will share this more broadly once it is finalized.)
- And on Friends and the reconciliation journey – For the past three years Quaker Meetings have reported to CFSC and CYM on their reconciliation initiatives. In this session Jenn met with Friends to discuss both the process and content of these reports and how CFSC can further support Meetings and committees in their reconciliation journey: https://quakerservice.ca/reconciliation2019.
This year the annual Sunderland P. Gardner lecture was delivered by Paul Mungombe, a Friend originally from Uvira, DR Congo. Paul spoke about his journey fleeing the violence of the eastern Congo and going to Kenya, where he lived in one of the world’s biggest refugee camps for seven years. Eventually, Paul and his family were able to come to Quebec as refugees. In Canada, Paul has had the chance to offer trainings using the Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) methodology, which was originally developed by Quakers to help Rwandans build trust with each other and to address their trauma. HROC is now offered in many countries and Paul is one of two trainers living in Canada.
This year also featured a Bible study by Steve Heinrichs, Director of Indigenous-Settler Relations at Mennonite Church Canada. Over the course of the week he explored settler colonialism in the Bible and how it has informed the doctrine of discovery and been used to justify settler colonialism in Canada and elsewhere.
Steve shared his personal struggles to reconcile with the fact of being a descendant of European Mennonites who settled on and benefited from stolen land without looking into its origin. He explained that Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada says the total land base of the 2,267 existing Indian reserves comprises just 0.2% of Canada’s territory – the other 99.8% having been taken by settlers.
Steve explored Canadians’ tendency to discuss colonialism as a problem of the past, but that it is ongoing in many forms, such as resource extraction projects happening without Indigenous peoples’ consent. He stressed the need for reparations. Videos of Paul’s lecture and Steve’s Bible study will be available on https://quaker.ca
Matthew Legge is CFSC’s Communications Coordinator. For some pictures of CYM in Session see our Facebook page.